Sex reassignment is less difficult than facing the ethical questions about irreversibly modifying children's bodies'

Wednesday, March 01, 2000

The Ethics of Gender
Dr. Walker suggests that those who disagree with his views on sex reassignment of newborns with ambiguous genitalia are "unsophisticated" ["A Question of Gender," January]. His attitude reflects the general and overwhelming arrogance of the medical industry as a whole. It is hard to tell which is more important to Walker--the belief that all people are created equal and should be respected for their differences, both in opinion and in body, or the need to push parents in a direction that conveniently puts additional money in the pockets of surgeons and supporting hospitals. The current practice of sex reassignment is less difficult than facing the ethical questions about irreversibly modifying children's bodies without true medical necessity, at an age when they are too young to make such decisions for themselves.

Theron L. Gibbons
Phoenix, Arizona

I am a fellow in medical genetics at Emory University in Atlanta. We are usually called in when a neonate has ambiguous genitalia. After chromosomal and hormonal testing and extensive discussion with other medical specialists and the parents, it is the parents who ultimately make the decisions for gender assignment of babies. It is not uncommon, however, for the responsibility to be passed on to the medical teams, especially if the long-term gender identification of the patient is not externally and internally consistent. I wish that you had contacted more medical professionals who deal with these extremely complex issues to offer a counterpoint to the other views presented.

Mark T. Steen, M.D., Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia .

Shattered Glass
Thanks for highlighting my hypothesis for the glass found in the Libyan desert in "The Year in Weird Science" [January]. It would be more accurate to say I proposed that a cluster of fragments (not a single intact object) from a disrupted comet or asteroid exploded in the atmosphere. A cluster of fragments would be one way to heat up a lot of air and melt some sand without making an impact crater. A single three-megaton burst at high altitude would not be sufficient. Also, my calculations were for meteoroids 34 meters, not 10 yards, across.

Mark Boslough
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Disaster and Taxes

Greg Loomis's criticism that people who live in the shadow of Mount Rainier are putting a strain on federal resources is unrealistic [Letters, January]. I live in Bound Brook, New Jersey, which sustained the brunt of the flood damage in the state as a result of Hurricane Floyd. This caused me to muse: Is there anywhere in the United States where one would be completely free from disaster? Should all denizens of the West Coast be relocated because of the earthquakes we know are coming? How about Floridians and hurricanes? Let's move all the folks out of Tornado Alley. Loomis, like everyone who proposes simple solutions to complex problems, needs to think this through. What disaster awaits his hometown of Cincinnati?

Don Kalbach
Bound Brook, New Jersey.

The Century in Science

Yale history professor Hiram Bingham is credited for "discovering" Machu Picchu after a bartender told him where it was and a 10-year-old boy led him to it ["The Century in Science," January]? Does nothing truly exist unless a white male knows it?

Cecilia Kelly
Newberry, South Carolina

If my memory of the history of the rubber industry serves me correctly, I believe that the B.F. Goodrich Company introduced the tubeless tire to automobiles, not the The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, as stated in the "Century in Science" timeline.

Kenneth B. Roskos
Master Chemical Technician
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Akron, Ohio

Comment on this article